Immersed in the Moment

I had one of those creative days on Sunday. The day that was most needed. The day when I was completely in the moment, focused on seeing and being…being a part of the landscape, immersing myself in it. I knew before I developed the images I would be pleased. Sometimes, often times, these Zen moments do not happen. Other times, it is unavoidable.

I had one of those creative days on Sunday. The day that was most needed. The day when I was completely in the moment, focused on seeing and being…being a part of the landscape, immersing myself in it. I knew before I developed the images I would be pleased. Sometimes, often times, these Zen moments do not happen. Other times, it is unavoidable. Completely, effortlessly, immersed in the moment.  

There are differing ways I go about shooting, creating images.  Sometimes, I pre-see the image I want.  I visualize the end result before I even leave the house.  Prior planning is usually relentless, thought about the subject matter has been ongoing, and my shooting is very intentional.  I view this as work.  I am after the finished product.  It is a very rewarding experience at the conclusion however, it is not always fulfilling in the moment.  Often, I want enjoyment.  I want creative energy to flow. I want to leave work and home life behind.  I want to forget the stresses of tomorrow and yesterday.  I want to be in the moment, immersed in the moment.

Which leads me to my preferred method of shooting (there are others, I may go into details at a later time, a later post).  Sometimes, I gather my camera, a roll or two of black and white film, a prime lens and my tripod.  I don’t over-complicate it with gear.  I keep it very simple to limit the possibilities, which unleash the potential possibilities.  A paradox, yes, but one of countless in life.  You have to let go of options to fully appreciate the options available, creatively speaking.  I have a set place to go, but no set place to shoot.  I wander.  Very slowly, deliberately looking, seeing, immersing myself into the scene. I see, visualize the possibilities.  Focus on the limitations of the equipment I have and adapt it to the setting at hand.  I slow down and become aware.  And then it just happens.  The creative energy is flowing, I am energized with creativity and my most personally rewarding work is done.  This is when the beginnings of a new monograph begin.  The focus on projects not yet realized.  Potential is recognized.  I am part of my craft.

And then it is over, but not the anti-climax.  Lasting, still able to be in the moment but also to reflect upon this experience that has unfolded.  Knowing that what is captured on the film, waiting to be unleashed at a later time with development will be something memorable and very important personally for the experience that coincided with the image capturing.  My creative juices have been re-invigorated.  I am ready to begin earnest work.  I remember why I am a photographer.

These images are all from the same roll, camera and lens.  A Nikon FM2n, nikkor 20/2.8ais, Ilford FP4+ film developed in d76 1:1 and scanned on my Kodak Pakon F135+.  Only slight work in the digital darkroom (except one pano-merge and cropped from 2 images).  Just basic burning, sharpening, contrast.  Nothing that would not be done in a traditional dark room setting.

High Shoals Falls and what I have been up to

So, in a long delay from my last post, I will share a recent trip with my wife to High Shoals Falls and what I have been up to as of late.

I will start with what I have been up to. This fall has been busy and this winter, well, it has been dreary. This fall had Tammy (my wife) and myself making a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons for week. This was fantastic, a true dream trip come true. I hope to post some images and thoughts on the parks in the not so distant future. In addition, I was printing heavily and matting these prints in preparation for an art gallery showing. This was a monograph of the South Cumberland State Park, a project I have been working on for 10 years of which finally came to fruition. I feel it was a success and I may post some media about it in the future as well. With all of that said and done, this winter has been dark and gloomy, especially the last month…non stop rain. January was frigid and I was able to get out and capture some frozen waterfalls. Lately, I have been taking advantage of the gloomy weather and shooting a lot of B&W. I have found my new high speed film/developer combo that I love, Kentmere 400 @ 800 in diafine. I have also been shooting a bunch of delta 100 and working on fp4+. Additionally, I have been focusing on a tublr blog of another monograph of the forgotten backroads of middle TN. Please check it out as I am adding content constantly. Abstaining From Forgetfullness . This is a project that is finally finding it’s voice and I am unleashing my 5-6 years of archives to this. I may talk about this in more depth in a day or so. Now on to my next paragraph.

High Shoals Falls…my wife sent my a link on FB about some waterfalls she wanted us to visit in north Georgia. Being that she has started a new job and works weekends, our trips together have been sorely neglected. However, she did ask off for a weekend and we went exploring. High Shoals Falls which is near Brasstown Bald (highest point in GA) is located in north GA. A lovely hike, not to long descended into a picturesque setting. I knew the sun would be in and out so I wanted a film that would give me great resolution but was not overly contrasty in nature. I chose Ilford FP4+ and I believe it was the right choice. Developed in d-76 1:1 and scanned on my Kodak Pakon f135+, the images I believe came out well. Enjoy!

High Shoals Falls 1

High Shoals Falls 2

Blue Hole
High Shoals Falls 3

and my wife, doing what she loves, being out in nature
High Shoals Falls 4

K&F Concept TM2324 Tripod Review

A few weeks back I received a K&F Concept TM2324 Tripod. This will be a review (initial followed up with a long term review at a later date) of this tripod as well as a comparison to my old standby, the Manfrotto 3205LC with Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head. The K&F Tripod was purchased from Amazon, here, Amazon and would be considered comparable to the Manfrotto.

I have had 2 weekends out shooting with this tripod, both weekends out with my canon AE-1 shooting black and white film. But first, I want to tell you why I am using this tripod now.

For years, I have wanted a lighter weight, more compact tripod. The logical solution would be a carbon fiber tripod. The problem is price. A quality carbon fiber tripod will run $3-500 easily. I am not about to pay that. Secondly, I do a lot of hiking to remote places off the beaten path and the Manfrotto 3205LC, though sturdy and rugged, is just damn heavy! My arm hurts carrying it. I don’t usually carry my backpack or camera bag with gear as I go minimalist. One camera, one lens, one tripod is how I roll. It’s the camera over the shoulder, fanny pack with water and food, tripod in hand. Sometimes I wanted to strap the tripod to my fanny pack (mountain smith cairn II, for those who want to know) but it is too big and heavy. The few lightweight tripods I have looked at were jokes, too flimsy and doubtful that it would hold a DSLR or even a film SLR steady. So I mustered on with the beast (manfrotto).

Well a friend and fellow photog turned me onto this tripod. It intrigued me. When I received it I was more intrigued, and impressed. First, It came in a nice carrying case (didn’t get one with the manfrotto which was purchased at Dury’s in Nashville). Inside the case was shoulder strap if needed. The case is a nice synthetic type canvas, ruggedly built. The K&F Concept TM2324 tripod was really impressive. A good third the size of the Manfrotto folded up and MUCH lighter,mMaybe 3lbs. The K&F is barely over 2lbs with the head! That is light! I quickly noticed the quick release tabs for the leg extensions. This was a pleasant relief as my current tripod has the old fashioned screw tab deals that make things SLOW! Plus, I will be setting up for a shoot, and the legs begin to shrink. Oh yeah, didn’t tighten the leg down enough, doh! Not an issue with the quick release locking tabs. Compact, light and affordable! Just what I wanted! Could it be any better? Why yes, yes it can.

The K&F Concept TM 2324 has much more flexibility in movements. The legs can be inverted so the head can be lowered virtually to the ground with the legs extended. This makes shooting with a super wide angle for a lower perspective/angle and/or macro photography that much easier. There is a built in bubble leveler on the head. Nice! But what about the head? Manfrotto style quick release plates is a gold standard with reliable components. Well, I think I like this one on the K&F better. Though the plate is not quick release, I believe it is better. And here is why. The quick release mechanism of the manfrotto, while quick, never instilled confidence in me. I always had to recheck to make sure the camera would not fall out and when leaning the camera or tripod over, I was always scared it would snap out. On the T&F, you place the camera with plate attached, in the slot on top of the head. Attached is a sturdy bolt type screw that screws the head into the plate (hard to describe but very natural) and leaves me filling confident that the camera is planted and will stay on the head. Also, the ball head movements are silky smooth! Much more so than my manfrotto, even when new. Additionally, there are degree guide numbers around the ball head for precision in panoramic instances where you will be merging multiple images for a panorama. Just an overall much more refined product. The manfrotto may be your Jeep Wrangler, the K&F your Jeep Cherokee (utilitarian rugged vs. refined ruggedness).

So what else to say? I am super thrilled with this tripod. It suits my needs and may suit yours as well if you are looking for an affordable, compact, lightweight tripod for your landscape (or studio) needs. I plan on using this extensively this winter and see if it holds up to the rigors of the backwoods and will report back my findings. So far so good with K&M Concept TM2324 Tripod! Here are a few reference photos, one comparison in size next to the manfrotto.


Obviously smaller, more compact for storage, travel, hiking, etc.

K&F Concept TM2324 Tripod 1

K&F Concept TM2324 tripod 2

K&F Concept TM2324 tripod 4

K&F Concept TM2324 tripod 5

K&F Concept TM2324 tripod 6

A Tale of Two Seasons – Revisiting a Scene

Well, today this posting is titled “A Tale of Two Seasons – Revisiting a Scene.” A different posting from my usual but one I feel inspired this dreary fall morning to write about. Coffee helps as well.

I was perusing through some images on my website and came across 2 almost identical scenes. So similar at first glance I wondered why I uploaded the image twice. So I investigated. The scene was the same, but different. Obviously taken separately. Further investigation by looking at the meta data shows they were taken in 2013 and 2014, both in the fall. The 2013 in the evening (I can tell by the lighting) and the 2014 in the morning. Both are fall scenes from Greens View in Sewanee overlooking the valley below. Both show early fall colors. Both are beautiful. Both are different in their own right.

This brought to mind something I do often…revisiting a scene. I often, year after year, season after season, shoot the same scene as in reality, they are not the same. The light is different, never the same. Scenes change subtely, trees fall, new growth begins, camera angle different, focal length different, differing vision in my eye and how I process, among others. So with these thoughts running through my mind, I post this blog on Revisiting a Scene and show you these 2 images. The first is the P.M. shot from 2013 and the 2nd is the A.M. shot in 2014. Enjoy!

Greens View 2013

Greens View 2014

Olympus XA4 – the best travel camera ever

Is the Olympus XA4 the best travel camera ever? Well, we shall take a look!

There are all sorts of cameras to take when traveling. This decision making process plagues me every time my wife and I go on vacation. The problem is I am a camera collector and aficionado of using old cameras. I also love to shoot film, both color and traditional B&W but also shoot digital. So the question boils down to systems and what I am planning on doing. Usually I will take a Leica or 2 with lenses and a film Canon EOS so as to change lenses with my digital EOS Canon 5dmkii. At least that is what I am currently doing. But…what about when I don’t want a camera to lug around but want one for snapshots? Camera phone???? I could and sometimes do but will explain why not preferably. Lets explore this issue.

The DSLR: Big, heavy and not something I want to lug around as a snap-shooter. If I have something planned, maybe so and will equally be carrying a tripod and usually additional lenses. Not ideal for the idea of “travel” due to the fact that unless intentional shooting opportunity affords itself, I will intentionally leave the gear in the car/hotel/tent. Not so practical (for me).

The SLR (film): Now we are getting somewhere. Film SLR’s, especially pre digital automation (to digital capture) and pre auto-focus were sometimes quite small. Particularly bodies of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Add a couple small primes in a small should bag (or not), put on your favorite prime lens (50,35,28) and you had a nice light weight package. Problem though, I don’t always want a camera hanging around my neck and if I do, I want even smaller. Enter the…

Leica Rangefinder: My ideal, smaller than an SLR with lens (my leica iiif and collapsible summitar is almost pocket-able) and due to being a rangefinder, much better to grab shots, aka, snap shooting. Problem here is, my M5 has a meter so ideal, but, about the size of a small slr. My IIIf is much smaller, but no meter. Great when I shoot c-41 (I can guess exposure) but with B&W, I prefer to have a meter. Plus, if I want to bring a wider than 50mm lens, I need an external finder making it a bit bulkier. Still, for long day hikes, the IIIf with attached 28mm lens and finder is my preferred tool of trade. But still, I want smaller…

Olympus XA4: My quest originally had me land on the Olympus XA. A super small legitimately pocket-able rangefinder with a pretty good 35/2.8 lens. However, I am not necessarily a 35mm focal length fan (quickly changing though) and prefer/red either a 28, 40 (great compromise) or 50. The XA rangefinder patch is dim and focusing is slow but you can scale focus to speed things up. But…yet again, I was not fully satisfied. Enter the rather rare Olympus XA4. This XA model has a very nice 28/3.5 lens (sharper than the 35/2.8 on the XA, IMO) and is scale focus. It also scale focuses down to 12 inches! Pseudo macro mode. The XA4, with a wider, better lens and simpler focusing mechanism combined with a very small clam shell package that you can slide into your front pocket (or put around your neck on simple strap and stuff in front pocket) make this the carry all and every where. It is so small, you can always have it with you.

Now you may be thinking, “well I always have my android/iphone with me, why not use this?” To each their own but here are my reasons. Cell phone you have to unlock, click on the app, make sure the setting is correct (do I have it on the front facing camera from the last selfie? do I need to turn the flash off? HDR mode? Too slow…I want something quicker, and, more importantly, I prefer film for snap shooting any day. The Olympus XA4 is fast. Slide open the camera, point, shoot. It starts out at the 10′ range on the slider for focusing. One click up infinity focuses. Click down for closer. It becomes very intuitive. Fast, fast, fast and little to think about.

But how are the images? Well, I took some snapshots on our last vacation. I found my self grabbing this camera more than any other, regardless of whether I used it…it was with me. Here are a few shots, all shot on Kodak TriX film, developed in hc110.

Madison River

Madison River 1


Blacktail Plateau

Madison River 2

Near Grand Prismatic Spring

and the beauty itself
Olympus XA4

Olympus XA4 – best travel camera? Maybe…

Kara and Trevor Wedding

Weddings are such a special time, a once in a lifetime event for a couple and proper documentation of this event is crucial. Photographing weddings can be hectic but I have been blessed with the most kind and cooperative couples whom I equally want to put at ease. In this post, I want to highlight the Kara and Trevor wedding shot this spring.

Growing up in a suburb of Birmingham, Al was a far sight removed from rural Middle TN. However, I would not give up the “country” life for anything as I have fallen in love with the rural landscape and slowed down pace of everything. The weddings locally often have this timeless feel, incorporating the atmosphere of the surrounding into the event. Though I have shot weddings in downtown Atlanta and downtown New Orleans which were elegant and extravagant, the most memorable have been around here. From farm weddings to cave weddings, the uniqueness of each is memorable. The wedding of Kara and Trevor had a feel of rural surroundings, complete with the improvised dance in the barn due to the heavy spring rains that came post ceremony. Interestingly, I learned from the wedding party that it is good luck if it rains on your wedding. Great news for the new couple!

Below, I will give a sampling from the Kara and Trevor wedding as I walk you pictorially through the events of the day. Enjoy!









The rest of the album can be viewed HERE

Ilford SFX 200 – A pictorial review of IR possibilities

Wow! Long overdue blog posting that is much needed. I keep neglecting this site but need to add some fresh content. My plan was to do a series on my trip out to Guadaulupe Mtns NP and Carlsbad Caverns NP but that was waaaaaaay back in April and August in nigh upon us. I also want to do some wedding posting from some recent shoots but all of this takes time…which I like to spend photographing…or riding my dual sport through the dirt. So, here is an easy posting for me to add. It is from a roll of Ilford SFX 200. SFX 200 is a black and white film with extended red sensitivity into the infrared range. So with an IR72 filter (IR72 filter cuts out all visible light below 720nm, only infrared will be captured) attached to my Nikon FM and lowly Nikon series e 35/2.5 lens, I went a shooting. Some interesting results were had of which were intended which was to get the often desired “wood” effect. I developed this film in d-76 and scanned it with my Kodak Pakon F135+ scanner, slight editing in Lightroom 5. This is a brief pictorial review from a single roll, my only roll shot of this film. So, here are some images of Ilford SFX 200.
Ilford SFX 200 - Greens View

Ilford SFX 200 - TN River

Ilford SFX 200 - TN River 2

Ilford SFX 200 - TN River pano crop

Mood in creating an image

Mood in creating an image is an aspect of photography often overlooked. There are many variables to this process but ultimately, the goal is to bring an emotional element to viewing an image. Many times I go out with a vision in my head of what I am looking to capture. Others times I go out not looking for a particular image but for a particular mood. I touched on this briefly from my last post but will briefly touch on this some more.

During this winter, I want to fully convey this time of year. Not just through a 2d image, but by attempting to tie emotions to that image, or rather, a mood. Black and white film is exceptional for this but color can equally capture this. With color, the thought process is somewhat different. Thought to color palette in choosing a film is one area of consideration. But ultimately, for me, it is the entire process.

What I will highlight today is a few B&W images and a few color images taken recently. I chose to use a very old camera, a 1952 Leica IIIF with an equally old or older leica 35/3.5 summaron. The summaron delivers a delightfully low contrast image, flaring easily to bright points of light. I could have easily chosen a modern lens however I wanted character, mood if you will, of time forgotten, past, etc. In the color department, I chose a cheap consumer film. I had my professional films, my ektar and portra, but I wanted a film to impart imperfection. Visible grain was to be desired. Sometimes, the perfection is through the imperfection. Other times, it is the imperfection that is a part of the sum total that will aid imparting mood.

Here are a few examples, snapshots if you will, of just getting out and about with nothing planned other than to capture the dreary mood of winter. Or, mood in creating an image.

short springs

short springs 2

old stone fort deer

old stone fort deer 2

old stone fort sunset

old stone fort sunset 2

Monochrome motion

Traditional black and white film is an abstract medium, presenting an alternative reality that must be interpreted by the viewer. It is here that more elements can be interpreted from the scene. This winter, as color is muted and represents earthen tones, I have attempted to accentuate the mood and feeling of this dreary time of year and incorporate motion of water as a primary focus rather than just a part of the composition. Monochrome motion if you will. Whether I have achieved this or not is left up to the viewer and their interpretation however, I find that I often spend more time viewing these images which in the end, is what one desires. Time, thoughtfulness, wonderment about the image captured which can only be done through time spent viewing a particular image. What follows is just a few examples. A few of these images or more abstract with others being closer to straight photography. Enjoy!

below savage falls

monochrome motion

old stone fort state park

old stone fort 2

old stone fort 3

fiery gizzard creek

fiery gizzard creek 2

savage falls

Could you go back to film?

“Could you go back to film?” was the question posed on in the alternative forum. I read briefly through some of the thread but apparently, there were some heated and off topic rants from both sides of the coin. However, the thread got me thinking and I felt compelled to share my feelings at this time. Below is my post which I felt compelled to share here for you, my reader. I could go on but ultimately, photography is not an end result but a process, a journey and not a destination. With that in mind, maybe the context will fit my brief discussion below.

For me, I am shooting more and more film, and less digital. In fact, I am almost 100% film. As most of my work is for pleasure and little is for pay, I find delight in using old mechanical rangefinders (Leica’s) and old mechanical SLR’s (Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, etc). There is a pleasure, a tactile pleasure, and experience that I enjoy. I find digital boring today. Maybe because I feel I have mastered digital photography (I can get the results I want, to an extent. Can’t emulate film but a topic for another post). I have not mastered film and neither will I ever, just improve. To a degree, the same with digital but again, the experience is different and not as enjoyable. Too many variables, too many challenges with film. There is absolutely (to me) nothing more enjoyable then pulling out my leica iiif, guessing exposure and winding on those knobs for the next frame. A pure tactile dream! My M5 is almost as pleasurable with the added spot meter. Then the fun of mixing my own chems and developing. Sometimes I mess up, other times I have great results, still other times I am wondering how the result I was after is different than what I had anticipated. Granted, this would not be for everyone, but I like the hands on approach. Probably why I roast my own coffee beans instead of buying them roasted. I like my results and the experience, or rather the journey, is part of it. Not the end result, but the whole thing. The process, the journey, getting there, and then starting down the next path. Digital doesn’t give me this anymore. I’m starting at the end. It’s like buying the bag of ground coffee and brewing it. Yes, I can use a French press or a mocha pot for something better than the Mr. Coffee machine but still………..

My 5dmkii is dusty, I usually pull it out to swap L lenses with my film EOS bodies essentially using the digital body as an expensive rear lens cap. My workflow works and is at times quicker than my digital, more rewarding and requires less post processing. Right now I am a hybrid shooter. I develop my film and scan on a Kodak Pakon f135+. It gives gorgeous 6mp files (this is not a flatbed but a dedicated lab scanner) and will scan a roll in about 2 minutes. Color is usually spot on with c-41 due to the Kodak built in color profiles. B&W is beautiful. My lightroom editing is minimal. Adjust levels and sharpening. That’s it. 10 seconds max on an image, usually less. I could batch them all in the scanner and export jpeg and have no post processing but I like to fine tune things. Currently building a dark room for traditional printing, my winter project if you will.

I shoot digital for weddings and portraits but recently have been incorporating film into my wedding work. I sell fine art landscapes and have them in homes, on book covers and in office building across the country. Not a lot, but enough to keep me doing it. But that doesn’t bring pleasure. Just work. I am mostly an amateur photographer and for this reason, I enjoy film. It is where my most personal work is made.

What I didn’t share were some images. Here are two I scanned yesterday. They were shot on hand rolled cassettes of film that I spun off bulk rolls of Kentmere 100. I shot them in my Leica M5 using a vc 35/2.5 color skopar lens with orange filter. Development was using Rodinal (a very OLD developer, classic if you will) at 1:50 dilution. Film was scanned with my Kodak Pakon f135+. These images speak to ME (maybe not to you) but this is what it says. It reminds me of a beautiful afternoon riding bikes with my wife through Gulf State Park (my emotional tie). Aesthetically, I am drawn to the second image particularly. The lighting, the tones, the depth (the pleasing of the viewing experience)…you decide.

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park 2